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Silent House - Blu-ray Review

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Silent House - Movie Review

4 stars

Riffing on Alfred Hitchcock’s one-take experiment with Rope, Silent House presents horror aficionados with a spellbinding tale of tension that works more often than it doesn’t during its “real” 88-minutes.  The crack-shot camera work is all hand-held, but the intensity the story delivers is magnificent and, at times, damn near unbearable.  Subtle it isn’t, but Horror hounds – still clamoring for the next Halloween - will be howling at the moon over large parts of Silent House.

If only we could ignore that ham-fisted plot twist.  Gulp.  If only…

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, proving her star is still on the rise), her father (Adam Trese), and her Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are all involved in the renovation of their home before selling it.  Due to its state of disrepair, the house’s windows are boarded and its doors are secured with padlocks.  There’s no cell phone reception either.  Empty, empty, empty.  No lights.  No electricity.  No nothing.   This is the setting of Silent House; all locked-in atmosphere.

"Silent House has a lot of moments to be thankful for, but it can’t quite navigate through its own darkness to be a certified classic."


 

On the day Silent House begins, Sarah and her father are in the house doing some cleaning when she hears a noise upstairs.  It could only be rats or so her father thinks as she leaves her side and continues his work in another part of the house.  They aren’t planning to be there for very long, but still they must lock up behind them and so they do.

An unexpected thump causes Sarah to call out for her father.  There is no answer.  Suddenly, she realizes there is someone in the house; someone who is hunting Sarah…from room to room.  Together, the hunter and the hunted are locked in a spooky showdown of wits and worry as neither can leave.  The keys are in her father’s possession…wherever he is.

Silent House, helmed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (Open Water), is a remake of Uruguayan feature from 2010, but it does manage to apply a healthy amount of sneak and creep factor into its tale of home invasion.  The duo squeezes life into the summer house location and, largely, cooks up a potboiler in that the film builds its tension on its perceived one-shot take.  For certain, this is a digital illusion at its finest; still it is effective in shaking the spine and splitting nerves.  The tension and suspense builds and builds and builds and, anchored by a standout performance from Olsen, builds until…

…it snaps…

Silent House could have been a classic of the genre.  The cinematography, provided by Igor Martinovic, is immediate and full of sequences that are marvelously engaged in the here-and-now.  The shadowy selections of shots are nerve-rattling and fulfill the John Carpenter jones many of us have when we watch horror films.

We have decrepit staircases, narrow hallways and cold basements.  We have a heroine in danger.  We have the faceless terrors of a unnamed and numberless source.  We also have obvious nods to Hitchcock.  Everything – even the scare techniques – work well enough to maintain the fear. Add it all up and we have white-knuckled fear deluxe.

Unfortunately, we also have a plot twist that derails the whole damn train.  Once revealed, we stop caring.  Absolutely.  We simply withdraw.  That being said, Olsen carries this vehicle when the staged scares fall flat.  Sure, there are tired techniques, but Olsen genuinely sears the soul with a terrified performance that actually makes you believe that she is in the throes of a nervous on-screen breakdown.

Silent House has a lot of moments to be thankful for, but it can’t quite navigate through its own darkness to be a certified classic due to the unfortunate snickers that follow its plot twisting and turning.  Horror should never be allowed to explain itself.  Never.

Fear is fear and that is enough.  Mostly, Silent House gets that right…mostly.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Silent House - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content and terror.
Director
: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Writer: Laura Lau
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen; Adam Trese; Eric Sheffer-Stevens; Julia Taylor Ross; Haley Murphy
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
Silent House
Memorable Movie Quote: "I checked your Facebook page. What's his name wrote on your wall again."
Distributor:
Open Road Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 9, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details yet available.

Synopsis: Silent House is a uniquely unsettling horror thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house. Directed by filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, Silent House uses meticulous camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey, experienced in a single uninterrupted shot.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Silent House - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 24, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features

Are you ready for a dark old time in a spooky old house?  Presented in 1080p with an AVC-encoded transfer, Silent House looks pretty decent.  Keep in mind this puppy is supposed to be poorly lit and in the rare times you get a good look at the on-screen happenings, the detail is pretty good.  Shot digitally with handheld cameras, the film is designed in such a way as to appear as one long shot and be as true to real time as possible.  Close-ups are detailed and sharp. Fine detail and other textures are lost to the darkness of the poorly lit house. Ironically enough, black levels and shadows could be darker.  Also going for a healthy bit of realism is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.  To share in the terrifying experience, you get the muffled thumps Olsen hears in the house.  Unnerving because – like her – you just can’t make them out to be certain of what they were.  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  The immersive mix is a plus to the whole release and will make do anything but make your house a silent one.  You’ll be screaming.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The commentary is provided by directors Kentis and Lau.  While informative, they spoil things a bit and reveal how the one-shot effect was achieved.  While they keep quiet about the whole real time illusion and the prep involved, they do keep things entertaining and informative.

Special Features:

If you were hoping for some meat on the bone, well, don’t.  There are no supplementals.  The Blu-ray package includes a standard DVD of the film, plus UltraViolet and a digital copy to enjoy. That is all.

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